5 Cacao Benefits That Justify Your Love of Chocolate

What is Cacao?

At its simplest, cacao is basically chocolate without the added processing, sweeteners, fats and other extra stuff you normally get from the commercial brands you can grab at the store.

But it's a little bit more than that.

In order to explain, let's get into a little background about the "Mother of All Things Chocolate" - the cacao bean.​

Cacao is technically the beans that are harvested from the pods of the cacao tree, a tropical plant that only grows in very specific (and warm) areas in the world, like South America, West Africa as well as Southeast Asia.​

cacao benefits

The pods that house the beans are shaped like elongated spheres - there are approximately 40 beans inside a single pod, which are harvested by splitting the protective shells open and then washing and drying the beans under the sun or in special ovens.

Some cultures, particularly in Mexico and Honduras, wrap the beans with a layer of banana leaves for a short period of time prior to drying to set off a fermentation process. This helps them take on a stronger flavor profile. Yum.​

Cacao vs Cocoa: What's the Difference?​

The cacao beans harvested from the pods and dried are then made into a number of products, namely chocolate, cocoa butter as well as cocoa powder.

And this is where the confusion between cacao and cocoa occurs.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people confuse cacao with cocoa. And sure, both words sound familiar but there is a very big difference between the two - especially as far as health benefits are concerned.

You see, cacao is just that - cacao in its raw, pure, unadulterated, unheated, antioxidant-rich form.

Cocoa, on the other hand, refers to cacao beans that have been processed and heated to high temperatures that strips them of most of their nutritional content. To add insult to injury, cocoa is then often mixed with sugar, milk fats, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavoring and the end result of most cocoa powders and products contain low levels of the real stuff (cacao).

And you want the real stuff - raw cacao - 'cause it's mighty good for you. How good? Read on to find out.

5 Cacao Benefits to indulge in, guilt-free

Most superfoods are amazingly healthy but admittedly a little lacking in the taste department. So when it comes to delicious cacao, you might be a little suspicious - I mean, how can something that's so yummy be so good for you?

1. Raw Cacao is Packed with Antioxidants​

Cacao is very abundant in antioxidants that stave off the effects of oxidative stress in the body. Sure, you may have heard that dark chocolate is a very healthy treat to munch on, but cacao flaunts an antioxidant content that’s nearly three times more.

According to the raw foodist and author David Wolfe, raw cacao actually packs a more powerful antioxidant punch than red wine, blueberries, and the superfoods acai and goji!

On top of all that, cacao not just contains antioxidants, but also a variety of beneficial trace elements, minerals, phytochemicals, flavonoids as well as essential fatty acids, all of which contribute to protecting your body from free radical damage.

2. Cacao is a Natural Mood Enhancer

If storebought chocolate can put a smile on your face, think what the mother of all things chocolate - cacao - can do for your mood.

Raw cacao is bursting with an organic compound called phenethylamine or PEA (commonly known as the "love-sickness chemical") that helps improve the mood.

PEA basically helps optimize the body’s production and release of the happy hormone, serotonin, which is a natural stress and pain reliever.

The consumption of cacao also promotes the release of a compound called anandamide ((taken from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss, delight” and generally know as the “bliss molecule”), which gives you an almost instantaneous feeling of relaxation and contentment.

3. Raw Cacao Boosts Brain Function

Cacao is known to boost brain function by upping the number of neurotransmitters in the nervous system.

Neurotransmitters are essentially the brain’s messengers, which oversee the relay of information from one nerve cell to another. The lack of adequate neurotransmitters in the body not just results to difficulty in concentration and focus, but also slightly dulls the psychomotor capabilities.​

4. GIVE Yourself an Instant Energy Boost with Raw Cacao

One of best benefits of cacao is that it provides a natural energy boost. And it's easily one of the best-tasting energy boosters you can ever get your hands on.

This is because cacao contains a diverse mix of fiber, protein, oleic acid, flavonoids, polyphenols as well as iron and sulfur that have been seen to help naturally increase energy levels.

Cacao won’t also give you unpleasant crashes like the ones you usually get from commercial energy drinks. But be careful about having cacao too late in the evening - this stuff can keep you up.​

5. Raw Cacao is a Natural Aphrodisiac

This one's gotta be our favorite of cacao's benefits -  raw cacao is a natural aphrodisiac, mostly thanks to its rich phenethylamine content.

Apart from improving the body’s ability to churn out serotonin, loading up on enough PEA also promotes the release of significant amounts of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a key role when it comes to getting the body ready for lovemaking.

So if you’re wanting to sizzle things up in bed, don't forget the cacao.​

About the Author Jessica

After growing up a perpetually pudgy kid, Jessica discovered real food - and her waistline shortly afterward. When she's not crafting concoctions in the kitchen, she spends her free time writing about food, making her own deodorant, watching sci-fi, doing headstands, and looking for gluten free food that doesn't suck.

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